Chile’s Pinera Transfers Assets, Seeks Advice on Lan Airlines

By Nathan Gill and James Attwood
April 27 (Bloomberg) — Sebastian Pinera, the presidential candidate for the Alliance for Chile coalition, said he’s taking advice on how to sell his stake in Lan Airlines SA and placed shares of other companies he owns in a blind trust.

Pinera, who lost the last presidential election in 2005 to Michelle Bachelet, transferred control of his other stock holdings to brokerages Banco BICE, Celfin Capital, Larrain Vial and Moneda, according to a speech posted today on his Web site. Pinera also commissioned studies into unloading his Lan stake before Chile’s next president is scheduled to take office.

The billionaire politician handed over management of stocks and resigned as a director on company boards as Chile’s congress continues to debate a bill that would establish rules for politicians putting investments into blind trusts to prevent conflicts of interest.

“I got tired of waiting,” Pinera said. The ruling coalition parties “have been saying they would announce this bill for 10 years,” he said.

The world’s 701st-richest person, according to Forbes magazine, is trying to avoid repeating a perceived conflict between his financial interests and those of the country that hurt his 2005 candidacy, Guillermo Holzmann, a University of Chile political science professor, said in an April 23 interview.

Pinera controls Lan via an agreement with Chile’s Cueto family. He was fined almost $700,000 in July 2007 for buying Lan shares prior to the release of quarterly earnings. He said today that he will retain a stake and his position on the board of football team owner Blanco y Negro SA. Rules for blind trusts still are required, Andres Velasco, Chile’s finance minister, told reporters in Santiago today, adding that establishing trusts unilaterally isn’t enough. 

“Business and politics don’t go hand in hand,” Velasco said.

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